The redevelopment of the south end of the Hilldale Shopping Center has taken another step towards completion and just in time, at least for one retailer, for the University of Wisconsin football season.
The doors of University Book Store opened July 17 in its new, smaller space that includes an east-facing main entrance overlooking a courtyard with grass, benches and patio tables with umbrellas. Inside, the store is no longer a two-level shopping experience. Inventory, including apparel and other team items that are overwhelmingly cardinal-and-white, is now on one level with better lighting and televisions that stream sporting events.
The new location is just a few doors away from its previous spot in the shopping center near the AMC Dine-In Madison 6 movie theater, previously known as Sundance. An L.L. Bean store is scheduled to open in spring 2018 in the former UBS space, a restaurant is planned for a corner spot adjacent to the new University Book Store while another large retail space is under construction on the store's other side. A tenant for that location has not been announced.
"Once all of the other stores out here open up, it will be a bigger draw for a lot of people that wouldn't have necessarily made it," said J.C. Horgan, manager of University Book Store. "It's all going to be beneficial to us. Once it's done and everything is where it's (supposed to be) it's going to be great."
University Book Store will hold a grand opening this weekend with specials and giveaways. Former Badgers basketball players Josh Gasser and Zak Showalter will be on hand for a meet-and-greet from noon to 1 p.m. Friday while former UW-Madison athletic director and athlete Pat Richter will be in the store from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
The owner of the mall, WS Development, has reconfigured 55,000 square feet of retail space in its ongoing efforts to create more visibility for its tenants and to bring the southern section in line with the rest of the onetime enclosed mall that's now an open-air shopping center. There is a new entrance for the movie theater but 10,000 fewer square feet of retail space in the shopping center.
The project nears completion just over two years after the grand opening of a $15 million, 53,000-square-foot redevelopment between Macy's and Metcalfe's Market that created an open-air corridor on the shopping center's north end that included the relocation of New Balance shoes and the addition of kitchen retailer Sur la Table, clothiers Kate Spade, Mes Amies and Michael Kors, LUSH cosmetics, Pier South, Home Market and Cafe Hollander.
Hilldale, which opened in 1962, is one of the city's oldest shopping destinations but was purchased by WS Development at a 2012 sheriff's auction for $52 million.The property had been owned by Chicago-based Joseph Freed & Associates, which bought it in 2004 and spent millions on upgrades that included parking structures, a streetscape and shops and restaurants on the east side of the property.
The current project has moved Ulla Eyewear to a space near the Macy's entrance and is expected to bring new life and energy to the shopping center's south end after months of construction. One of the major changes for University Book Store is that it no longer has an access on the backside of the shopping center, which means customers may have to park in a parking garage or search for a spot in stalls on the street corridor.
"We're still one of the few stores that opens at 9 a.m.," Horgan said. "I thought losing our back parking lot was going to affect that, but it really hasn't seemed too. We still get at least a dozen people in here by 9:30 a.m., which is still a half an hour before most of the other stores are even open."